Leveraging Technology to Improve Efficiencies in Government
January 17-18, 2011
Dr. Daniel J. Caron
Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Context of the digital environment
Challenges faced by government are substantial:
The issue of an overwhelming amount of information being produced is a fundamental problem of information preservation. Society's capacity to create and produce information has far outdistanced both its physical and virtual capacity to store and preserve it, and this gap continues to grow exponentially;
One of the great myths of contemporary information technology is the notion that society possesses unlimited storage for information. Despite the fact that advances in micro-chip engineering are reducing both storage space and costs, the real investment in information preservation lies not in the physical storage of data but in the administration and management of the accessibility of the information objects inside the storage containers. Regardless of how much capacity one can build, it is the costs associated with the management of digital information in authentic, reliable and accessible form inside the storage environment that are rapidly escalating out of sight.
As well, citizens expect:
- timely access to information
- the ability to exchange information and opinions (the rise of the digital agora)
- the ability to hold elected officials accountable
We need to look for new innovative solutions that engage the new digital environment rather than to automate the information resources associated with analog thinking and its physical context.
The digital environment provides many opportunities for a convergence of approaches and practices. It brings about cultural change that carries the possibility of attaining desired results with regard to government transparency and efficiency and sound decision making based on the management of information resources appropriate to the digital age.
Too often Federal IT projects run over budget, fall behind schedule, or fail to deliver promised functionality. Many projects use "grand design" approaches that aim to deliver functionality every few years using a lifecycle approach, rather than breaking the projects into more manageable steps and demanding more capacity and new functionality emerging over time;
Governments typically rely on large, custom-built proprietary systems, which are frequently unable to leverage efficient and effective government "light technologies" or "shared services" through linking capacities or standards.
In a not-so-distant past
This is a world familiar to most of us here today – though not necessarily to our children, who are growing up in a very different social, economic and knowledge context, virtually "enveloped" by very different experiences.
It is a world of largely analog communication and physical objects, where information and knowledge resources are found in their containers: manuscripts, official papers, books, card catalogues, and even the ubiquitous memory stick, which is already considered to be old-fashioned technology.
Today, the public memory environment of information and knowledge resources has been completely transformed – in a remarkably short period of time – and it has become infinitely more complex and challenging over the last decade.
For the most part, the speed of this transition is bewildering -- but again, not necessarily to our children: rapid change is part of their core experience. It is a completely natural phenomenon to which they are constantly able to adapt, and so must we if our institutions are to remain relevant in the years to come.
This is where we are now
The new digital order represents a shift in the landscape of information resources and memory development from the controlled, ordered, formal experiences and limited relationships established within the physical space of official mediators, repositories and analog communication to the uncontrolled, disordered, informal experiences and unlimited communications of cyberspace permitted by the Web and networks.
Exponential growth of information means that we cannot capture and preserve all of it:
- Even during the "Great Recession," in 2009 the amount of digital information grew 62% over 2008 to 800 billion gigabytes (0.8 Zettabytes). It is projected that the amount of digital information that will be created in 2010 could fill 75 billion fully loaded 16 GB Apple iPads. What is critical to realize is that 35% more digital information is created today than the capacity exists to store it; and this number will jump to over 60% over the next several years.
- LAC Web acquisition – Web harvesting platform: over 7 terabytes of content already ingested, dating from 2005 onward
- Globally, we send 35 billion emails per day; in the Government of Canada (GoC) we send 18 million per day.
- 70% of GoC business is now conducted by email; 99.9% of government records are digital.
- It is estimated that 85% of corporate data resides informally in unstructured formats outside of corporate custody and control, in the PC desktops under the custody and control of individuals or groups. The state is not fully in control of its causa materialis.
New approaches to governance and ICT
In a world largely unconfined by dimensions of time and space or referenced by controls within physical boundaries, we are rapidly developing a completely networked society through the exploitation of new information and communications technologies.
Through technology we are also:
(1) commodifying information resources for delivery to consumers on a previously unparalleled and unimagined scale;
(2) enabling the participation of consumers in the creation and production of information resource content;
(3) establishing new forms of mediation and documentary production in relation to information, literacy, and knowledge.
The digital age instils profound shifts in how societies access their documentary heritage. In particular, the increasing use of information technology by governments and citizens makes it possible to distribute information immediately and at a lower cost. Moreover, this use of technology also allows us to better understand how governments work. This increases the expectations of Canadians, both with respect to government accountability through increasing transparency and with respect to civic participation in socio-economic debates.
The rules that form our system of access governing the various components of our documentary heritage are part of society's access management framework in which Library and Archives Canada operates, and these are also evolving. This framework is composed of several statutes, such as the Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Copyright Act, the Canada Evidence Act, and the provisions in the Quebec Civil Code that relate to property and the equivalent common law principles. In addition to these statutes, there are internal government regulations and policies and a series of special rules that apply to LAC, covering specific situations or contractual agreements between the institution and its donors. As we could expect, the regulatory framework will need to keep pace with the deep structural changes that the rise of the digital landscape is bringing about in our society.
Emerging collective responsibility for public memory
Shared responsibility and the necessity to collaborate
- Several departments play key roles in the management of information in the federal administration
- We need to work together to find coherent solutions to our common challenges
Emerging collective social responsibility for public memory
- Single stand-alone entities no longer dominate the landscape
- Collaborative networks emerge
- These dynamic networks are co-managed
Challenges and Opportunities
Within the new environment of cyberspace, how do we best address the challenges of:
- New information dimensions
- Representative image of Canadian life
- Documenting society
- System of access governing the various components of our documentary heritage
Fulfilling our mandate in this new digital age presents unique challenges and opportunities. The digital age has impacted and merged a number of activities for public memory institutions. For instance, we now inhabit pervasive and rapid flows of digital information in an age where digital storage capacity is increasing faster than our ability to pull information back out. In fact, some scholars and business leaders are now stating that the challenge is no longer deciding what to hold on to, but how to efficiently organize it, sort it, access it, and find patterns and meaning in it.
How do you address the key challenges under this new digital age? Not alone. Emerging solutions in this new environment require new approaches, new ways of working and, above all, new forms of partnership and collaboration.
Traditionally, there are four key stakeholders involved in these partnerships and collaboration:
- software developers and vendors
- jurisdictional standard-setters – to serve nascent standards-development efforts
- government agencies – for all business functions
- private-sector organizations
By engaging business managers, CIOs, information professionals, litigators and external counsels at all levels, we will be better able to leverage information technology to achieve a more efficient and effective government.
Responsibilities of Library and Archives Canada
LAC is at the centre of the management of government information. We offer both the guidance and the tools to other departments with regard to sound recordkeeping principles and practices. LAC also provides guidelines to the disposition of information resources and their long-term preservation.
With the adoption of the Government of Canada Directive on Recordkeeping in 2009, all government departments and agencies are called upon to review and improve their recordkeeping practices to bring them into line with demands of the Directive. The Recordkeeping Directive encompasses all information resources under the purview of the Government of Canada, including electronic information resources.
LAC is positioned to support government institutions in their efforts to conform to the requirements of the Directive with an orientation to assure the effective and efficient long-term management of government information resources. Indeed, compliance is the first step toward this objective, which benefits not only departments in the delivery of their services, but also Canadians at large over the short, medium, and long term.
All the newly developed policy instruments developed by LAC place an emphasis on the capture, preservation and timely disposition of digital information resources.
Initiatives of Library and Archives Canada
LAC participates in the development of international standards in library, archives and recordkeeping domains via ISO Technical Committee 46 (Information and Documentation).
Recently, two new ISO standards were approved that were geared toward establishing a collaboration between information professionals, business managers and CIOs: (part 1): Information and Documentation: principles and functional requirements for records in electronic office environments, and (part 2): guidelines and functional requirements for records management systems.
These documents provide general requirements and advice for records management and give guidelines for the appropriate identification and management of evidence (records) of business activities transacted through business systems. They also articulate principles of best practice, implementation guidelines, and enumerate risks and mitigations for the purpose of enabling better management of records in organizations.
All private or public sector businesses, regardless of their size or their nature, can use, repurpose, or adapt these standards to their own particular situation. Although they might seem technical in their approach, they are, in fact, geared toward providing best practices to business managers, CIOs, information professionals, litigators and external counsels at all levels.
LAC is working with Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to provide guidance over the issue of the digitization and destruction of paper records. A draft general guideline was presented to a number of departments for review and comments. In addition, LAC has completed a new Electronic MidA that should be available shortly. Finally, as part of the work of the ADM Task Force on the Future of Federal Library Service, we are also looking to provide guidance for the digitization of published material.
Beginning in 2017, LAC will no longer receive or will receive very little in the way of paper government records. Documents will be ingested in an electronic format and LAC will become a Trusted Digital Repository.
Digital Office: The art of engaging technology
In collaboration with the Treasury Board Secretariat, Library and Archives Canada is leading the first phase of the Digital Office Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to:
- create an environment where born-digital documents will remain digital from creation to access;
- use findings/results from the various phases of the pilot project to determine how best to equip GoC institutions with technology solutions that will enable them to keep the right information, over the right period of time, in the right way, and in an ergonomic enabling physical environment;
- significantly reduce paper use and dependencies across the GoC.
Project work will focus on moving toward a paperless office for pilot organizations while also establishing ergonomic best practices related to the digitization of workplaces. Based on the success of the current pilot projects, adjustments will be made and further roll-outs will be planned and executed.
In June 2009, TBS issued the Directive on Recordkeeping, which requires GoC departments to have adequate recordkeeping practices in place. Departments have been given a five-year period (2009–2014) to implement the requirements of the Directive.
The first phase of the pilot project will support laying the foundation for pilot institutions to satisfy the needs of the GoC Digital Office of the future while meeting the recordkeeping requirements of the TBS Directive on Recordkeeping.
Phase I of the Digital Office Initiative is therefore focused on activities and deliverables associated with the recordkeeping component of Digital Office implementation – in particular, defining the business context for recordkeeping so that creation, acquisition, capture and management of information resources of business value (IRBV) can be facilitated by appropriate enabling technologies and enterprise solutions.
During Phase I, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (OCL), the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev), and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) will work with the Government Records Branch (GRB) of LAC. The project team will become early adopters and contributors toward the development of recordkeeping maturity and capacity and will develop strategies to address the organizational, process, business rules and technology requirements associated with the Directive.
This is where we will be shortly…
There now exists a window of opportunity for all of us to put in place the mechanisms, tools and strategies to improve the efficiency of our recordkeeping as well as the appropriate technological solutions to assure good governance and transparency in the digital environment. By working together, the results of our collaborative efforts will be more comprehensive and, as a result, will lead us to success.
However, both communities, CIOs and information professionals, have never truly collaborated together on shared solutions to meet business needs. All can benefit from each domain's area of expertise. Information professionals know the standards, best practices and principles. CIOs can facilitate the policy making and develop the IT infrastructure, and information professionals can assist in their implementation.
Successful organizations need information systems and IT infrastructure for making, keeping and using authentic evidence of business activity in order to meet their business needs and legal obligations.
We must find ways and means to engage with one another, and in order to facilitate and provide leadership within this context of collaboration, I would propose something along the lines of the following for endorsement at the international level:
All governments will favour buying software to support their business activities that include archival/disposal/content management functionalities. In addition, content managers will work closely with CIOs to identify and articulate these functionalities and will make them known to the vendor community on an ongoing basis. As well, the consortium of content managers and CIOs agrees to keep the vendor community up to date with the continuing business needs of their organizations.